Toyota in India has a great reputation for reliability – just like internationally. In the past few years, multiple Toyota Fortuner generations and more recently the Innova Hycross are great sales successes. But there is a car that just did not click with Indian buyers – the Toyota Yaris mid-size sedan.

Just what happened?

Since the time of the Qualies, Toyota’s reputation in India has only been growing – that’s despite some early mis-steps With a promising launch embodied by the Qualis, Toyota gradually bolstered its presence in India with various cars and UVs in subsequent years, including the Corolla, Camry, Innova, Etios, and Fortuner. Toyota has garnered immense popularity with blockbusters like the Fortuner and various Innova versions. Nevertheless, there have been a few missteps from Toyota over the years, and the Yaris stands as one of them.

The Toyota Yaris, already a highly sought-after car in other Asian markets, made its debut in India in 2018 but struggled with sales. Despite being upgraded to comply with BS6 emission norms, it was eventually phased out from the Indian market in September 2021, finding only 19,784 buyers in India. Several reasons contributed to the restrained popularity and acceptance of the Toyota Yaris among new car buyers in India.

Toyota introduced the facelifted Indonesian-spec third-generation Yaris in India which featured a 1.5-litre four-cylinder naturally-aspirated petrol engine available with 6-speed manual and CVT gearbox options. The car came in J, G, V, and VX variants, with top trims offering segment-first features like a driver knee airbag, 60:40 split rear seats, front parking sensors, powered driver’s seat, and roof-mounted rear AC vents. Other features included a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system, automatic climate control, push start-stop button, leather upholstery, projector headlamps, LED DRLs, cooled glovebox, cruise control, paddle shifters, and rear sunshade.

Over three years, the company managed to sell only 19,784 units of the Yaris, leading to its discontinuation in October 2021, even though once it outsold Honda City.

Intense Competition

India loves Toyotas, So Why Did Yaris Fail?

The sedan segment was already overcrowded with options like the Maruti Suzuki Ciaz, Honda City, Hyundai Verna, Volkswagen Vento, and Skoda Rapid. The Ciaz was selling well due to the Maruti brand, Honda City and Verna already had loyal fan following – and the same was true for the rest. The Yaris just could not find a niche within the segment.

Ambitious Pricing

India loves Toyotas, So Why Did Yaris Fail?

Toyota launched the Yaris with a price of rs 8.75 lakhs, making it the most expensive offering in the midsize sedan segment. In contrast, rival sedans were known for their value-for-money propositions. This premium pricing undermined its competitive edge against its rivals. Buyers felt that the car did not justify the premium pricing (that is despite its six airbags). The Yaris was also smaller than its direct competition – the Honda City and the Hyundai Verna – in interior space.

Growing Preference for Compact SUVs

During the Yaris’ launch, the new car-buying audience was shifting toward compact SUVs. These SUVs, with attributes like high ground clearance and robust road presence, attracted car buyers. The rise of compact SUVs made it challenging for sedans to maintain their appeal, impacting the Yaris’ market traction.

Absence of a Diesel engine

India loves Toyotas, So Why Did Yaris Fail?

The Yaris was solely offered with a petrol engine, while its competitors had diesel variants, a significant selling point in the segment in those days before stringent emission norms. This was a a big negative for the Yaris.

A middle-of-the-road engine

The engine was not bad at all – and reviewers approved of its relaxed driving qualities. But it also meant that the car was not appealing to enthusiasts.

Design

It is believed that the design of the Yaris was too radical for Indian tastes in 2018.

Marketing

In 2018, Toyota’s reputation in India for reliability and hassle-free running was not as strong as it is today. The marketing for the Yaris also did not emphasize this aspect of the car.

Could the Yaris work in the Indian market today? The answer is no. The biggest reason is the total shift towards compact SUVs – and the healthy sales of the recently launched Honda Elevate is testament to this. The company has in fact stated that their future cars would all be SUVs, in India. Toyota themselves are believed to be on track to bring in smaller SUVs in India in the next couple of years.

 

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